EDITORIAL: Who benefits from staying home?

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It must be tough to enter a room, wait a couple of hours and nobody shows up for a meeting. Tough indeed, but that is what happened recently when officers from the Community Policing Programme arrived at the Multipurpose Cultural Centre for a town hall meeting with the members of the Grays Green community. Outside of an OBSERVER journalist and a sole member from the community, Cordova “Popeye” Simon, there was no other civilian at the meeting location. The pictures of the room full of empty chairs told the story.
First, let us compliment Mr. Simon for showing some civic pride and showing up. He needs to spread some of the community spirit throughout Grays Green. Now, to the question at hand. With all that is going on with crime on our streets, how is it possible that in a densely populated community such as Grays Green, only one person had any interest in hearing what the police have to say? How?!?!
People are quick to blame the police when crime occurs, but where are all those pointing fingers when action is being taken and no one in the community “gives a hoot?” Certainly, there can be no criticism of the police for not trying to connect with the community. They arranged the location, set out the chairs and invited the community to a discussion regarding improving community policing. The response that they received was essentially a silent but deafening “don’t care!” A bit ironic because that is the criticism levelled against the police by many communities.
Someone advanced the argument that maybe we are being a bit harsh. They opined that the police-community relationship has soured to such an extent that the community has given up on the police, and the empty room was a message to the police. We have a hard time buying into that argument but we will agree that that message was received loud and clear.
If the community had shown up and heard nothing but the same old thing, full of meaningless, empty promises then we can begin to understand that argument. But what happened was clearly a complete breakdown of civic pride. We cling to hope that it cannot be a case where every person in the community is upset with the police, to such an extent that they prefer not to engage them in a town hall meeting. Are we to believe that there is not at least a small group of people who cares about the community, understands the resource limitations of the police force and wants to be part of the solution rather than an obstruction to progress? We have to believe that is not the case; otherwise, we are doomed.
It is sad because it was reported that just about 12 people attended the first town hall meeting, which was held at the Golden Grove Primary School in January, hardly representative of a community living in fear of increasing crime. Have the residents in that area simply given up to the wave of crime and are no longer pushing back?
If that is the case, then they need to wake up. We have touched on this before but communities need to support the police as they attempt to hold crime at bay. Each individual in every community owes it to their neighbour and themselves to work hand-in-hand with the police in their attempt to stamp out crime. They (the police) certainly cannot do it by themselves!
But in order to achieve our common goal of reduced crime, there must be, at the very least, a line of communication and a show of caring and respect. The “don’t care” message has been delivered and received, and the strained police-community relationship just slid a few steps closer to non-existent. Does anyone in the community think that this is a good development?
Luckily, the police have indicated their willingness to reschedule for a later date, so the ball is in the community’s court. Will they show up in their numbers to demonstrate their willingness to participate in the solutions or will they ignore what may be the last attempt at introducing more effective community policing? Time will tell.
In the meantime, we urge all communities to take advantage of the town hall meetings being planned. Open and improve the lines of communication between the police and your community. Start the dialogue that you have complained has been missing from the solution.  Do these few things, and we are sure that everyone will benefit; everyone except the criminals, of course.
We invite you to visit www.antiguaobserver.com and give us your feedback on our opinions.

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